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Thursday, November 18, 2021

[Review] Blumhouse’s ‘A House on the Bayou’ Makes for a Dull Dinner Party Too Invested in Its Twists

A remote location and uninvited guests make for a tension-filled scenario that could inspire a variety of chills and thrills. A House on the Bayou uses that to its advantage, shrouding its horrors in mystery. Trying to guess what is happening keeps you on the hook for a while, but the more the answers flow, the less interesting this thriller becomes.

A House on the Bayou opens with a marital confrontation. Jessica Chambers (Angela Sarafyan) calmly waits for her husband, John (Paul Schneider), to arrive home from work so she can demand a confession of his extramarital affair. John only admits his adultery when Jessica reveals tangible proof, then quickly agrees to his wife’s demands. Jessica doesn’t want a divorce; she wants to maintain their family and their lifestyle. Jessica wants to keep her daughter Anna (Lia McHugh) sheltered from the strife and plans a family retreat at an isolated estate in the Louisiana bayou as part of reparations. Tensions simmer then explode when over-friendly neighbors Isaac (Jacob Lofland) and his Grandpappy (Doug Van Liew) invite themselves for dinner.

Writer/Director Alex McAulay attempts to instill ambiguity from the outset. John may be the adulterer, but he’s presented as mild-mannered and more eager to please, whereas Jessica is the icier, more assertive of the pair. To keep allegiances from shifting wholly to Jessica, she comes across as emotionally manipulative; she uses tears and guilt to coerce John into complacency. The uncertainty gets further exacerbated with the arrival of their unwanted guests. Isaac and Grandpappy seemed to know more about the house and its current inhabitants than they should, but McAulay wants to stretch out the reveals behind the threat to the Chambers. Is there something supernatural afoot or simple psychosis, and what does Isaac want?

But the characters and mysteries are superficial at best. Once answers start coming, a potentially intriguing horror-thriller descends into a lackluster cautionary tale. Lofland nails sleazy Southern charm but can’t imbue Isaac with the otherworldly menace the script asks of him. Van Liew and McHugh fare the worst as non-existent supporting players used whenever the narrative needs them, nothing more or less. Anna contributes nothing to the story outside of giving Isaac a foothold into the Chambers home and giving her parents a reason to fight back. While it’s clear that subsequent reveals are meant to shift how we feel about John and Jessica, there’s nothing more to their character arcs than a change in the moral scales.

McAulay drives home what’s happening with a heavy hand by the third act but never fleshes out the rules for this eccentric world. The bloody demise of one character quickly gets undermined with puzzling questions of why and how. A House on the Bayou gets so fixated on its punchline that everything else falls flat. McAulay works hard to maintain an enigmatic atmosphere that all other elements wind up too vague. The mansion and bayou setting only really matter as a late throwaway explanation. The entire story hinges on the messy relationship between John and Jessica, using it to wring tension. Once the truth comes out, the tension deflates, and the narrative falls apart. The final hook lands with a thud.

It’s the attempts at horror that unravel A House on the Bayou. McAulay does try to do something new with a familiar setup that sees unwelcome guests worm their way inside the temporary quarters of a family in crisis. Once inside, though, it stalls then flounders with an underdeveloped idea that fails to engender any sympathy or interest. It’s more focused on its twists than its characters, making it a dull nightmare for viewers.

A House on the Bayou releases on VOD and EPIX on November 19, 2021.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3692124/review-blumhouses-house-bayou-makes-dull-dinner-party-invested-twists/

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